One of my favorite Disrupt Yourself podcast guests in 2018 was Peter Sims—serial entrepreneur, author of Little Bets and founder of Parliament, BLK SHP and Silicon Guild. He began his career in venture capital, but with time and maturity, he recognized that the long work weeks and bizarre hours weren't for him. He left that world to enroll in business school at Stanford, where he realized that what he loved most was collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs as they worked to realize their dreams.
Throughout his career, Sims has had a string of successful collaborations. At Stanford, for example, he met Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, who was, at the time, a professor at Harvard Business School. They discovered a shared interest in effective, authentic leadership and George invited Sims to collaborate with him on a book titled True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, which quickly became a bestseller.
With several similar success stories under his belt, Sims is now teaching others why being an effective collaborator is critical for employees across organizations, from entry level roles all the way up to the C-suite. After all, ideas developed by teams of three or more people have 156 percent greater appeal than those developed by teams where just one or two people have played a hands-on role. And while it may seem that creating a synergistic team often comes down to luck, there's also quite a bit of strategy involved. I asked Sims to dish on what makes someone an effective collaborator and how to create a collaborative workplace.
Three Attributes of Effective Collaborators
- Curiosity is integral to discovery, innovation and, not coincidentally, to successful collaboration. "People who are curious and are lifelong learners are going to be drawn to other curious people who they think they can learn from through an interaction," says Sims.
- Generosity has to be "at the core" of collaboration, says Sims, because collaboration is inherently a two-way street. Part of it is giving something—be it skills, advice or support—and part of it is receiving that back. After leaving the VC world, Sims became "very focused on people who had a certain value-set and were motivated more by creation than transaction." People who are only interested in gaining from collaborations aren't good partners, he explains.
- Productivity is critical for an effective collaboration, because "good collaborators want to get stuff done. They don't want to talk—they want to do," Sims says.
Creating a Collaborative Workplace
Though the three attributes of effective collaboration that Sims outlines are often innate to certain employees, you can also cultivate these traits through the right training and corporate environment. Here's how:
1) Inspire Learning
Don't make the mistake of only offering new opportunities to employees as an incentive to stay when they are already halfway out the door. Learning initiatives and ongoing training both reward and cultivate curiosity, as does mixing up team composition and assignments on a regular basis. Challenge employees that have maxed out their potential in one role and are ready to disrupt themselves. Encouraging them to commit to a new project contributes to both employee retention and company innovation.
2) Provide Meaning
Many workers today are motivated not only by raises and promotions, but also by meaningful work and contributing to important social causes. Make sure company values are clearly defined and articulated. Be warned: businesses that focus solely on transactional relationships and the bottom line will be less attractive to generous collaborators.
3) Empower Problem-Solvers
Fill your workplace with people who relish challenge and find fulfillment in developing solutions to big problems. A team with only a few "can-do" personalities will be hamstrung by the less enthusiastic members. If an employee is disengaged, she may need a new challenge or, sometimes, a new workplace. Be strategic about meetings, avoid busy-work, unnecessary window dressing and other time wasters. These are irritants to effective collaborators who want to get stuff done.
In 2019, make fostering collaboration in the workplace a priority. Your employees may be craving collaboration more than you realize, and activating it can unleash innovation in a powerful way. "A lot of people are in jobs where they feel alone," Sims says. While isolated geniuses can have breakthrough ideas, most of us benefit from working in situations that favor positive collaboration. Even the least creative among us may have a flash of inspiration when in the company of stimulating friends.
Photo: Creative Commons
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Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." 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